Next Week's Meal Plan

A Week of Super-Easy Dinners for the New Cook

updated May 15, 2020
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Credit: From Left to Right: Joe Lingeman, Maria Siriano, Joe Lingeman, Dan de Jesus

This meal plan is for anyone who’s new to cooking and in need of a place to start. Beginning the week with a plan for dinner is an easy way to reduce weeknight stress and eliminates the “What’s for dinner?” question. From bruschetta chicken to salsa pork chops to lentil soup, each of the dinners in this plan is quick and easy to prepare, and wonderfully satisfying. Plus, they’ll teach you a variety of skills you’ll use again and again, like how to sear chicken breasts and the fastest way to prepare gnocchi (that doesn’t involve boiling a pot of water!).

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Monday: Easy Bruschetta Chicken

This chicken dinner is great for beginners, because once you learn the basic technique, you can adapt this recipe to make an endless number of easy dinners. A couple of chicken cutlets (or butterflied boneless breasts) are seared on the stovetop, then topped with a quick homemade bruschetta (which can be made in advance). Round out dinner with rice, corn on the cob, or a simple salad.

Get the recipe: Easy Bruschetta Chicken

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Tuesday: Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Veggies

Forget about that dumpling texture you get from boiling gnocchi and roast them in the oven instead. It gives gnocchi an irresistible crispy exterior with a chewy, tender inside — and requires little more than tossing everything together on a sheet pan.

Get the recipe: Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Veggies

Wednesday: Easy Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

Dump everything into the slow cooker first thing in the morning, and at the end of the day you’ve got a hearty, flavorful soup. To make dinner even more filling, pair it with a simple green salad, a loaf of bread, or a baked potato.

Get the recipe: Easy Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Thursday: One-Skillet Salsa Pork Chops

This skillet dinner starts with a short ingredient list, hits the table in no time, and finishes with the promise of easy cleanup. Simmering the pork chops in salsa is your insurance policy for keeping them super juicy. Serve the meat over a bed of cauliflower rice, couscous, or rice to soak up all the extra sauce.

Get the recipe: One-Skillet Salsa Pork Chops

Credit: Dan de Jesus

Friday: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos

Make these meat-free tacos once, and they’re sure to become a regular in your dinner rotation. The filling comes together in about 30 minutes, and you can top ’em off with crumbled cheese, guac, and a squeeze of lime.

Get the recipe: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos

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Welcome to Next Week’s Meal Plan! Meal planning isn’t always easy — especially if you’re just getting started. But I’m a firm believer that it’s the secret to stress-free weeknight dinners. I want to help you find inspiration and ease some of the pain points that come with getting dinner on the table night after night, whether you’re cooking for one or a family of eight. Every week, I’ll be sharing a new meal plan solution specifically customized for you from reader requests or from a guest contributor.